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Review board denies discharge to man who killed five at Calgary house party

CALGARY — A mental health review board has rejected a discharge request from a man who killed five people at a Calgary house party almost a decade ago.

Matthew de Grood was found not criminally responsible for the 2014 stabbing deaths of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong.

A court determined he had been living with undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time of the killings, and he has since been under psychiatric care.

"The board is satisfied that there is some certainty that Mr. de Grood remains a significant threat to the safety of the public and that the board cannot discharge him absolutely," Gerald Hawranik, chair of Alberta's Criminal Code Review Board, wrote in a report released Friday.

An annual hearing before the board last month was told de Grood's schizophrenia is in complete remission but requires two medications to keep it in check.

De Grood's lawyer, Jacqueline Petrie, had asked for her client to be given an absolute or conditional discharge, considering he's not a danger to the public and has been a model patient.

But the board disagreed.

"The board has identified areas and behaviours of serious concern that indicate Mr. de Grood is not as far along in progress as he would like to present," Hawranik said.

De Grood's former and current psychiatrists said he remains a threat to public safety, and a recent move to Calgary from Edmonton was likely to add some stress to his life.

Dr. Sergio Santana, a forensic psychiatrist who was originally in charge of de Grood's treatment team, has returned as his doctor and supported the Calgary move.

He said a full warrant would allow immediate supports if de Grood was to have another instance of "decompensation" like he did in 2019 and 2021.

"It is important to note that the stability of Mr. de Grood's mental state is largely attributed to medication. Mr. de Grood's progress to date has been made in highly structured settings. He does not have any established record of independent living," Hawranik said.

The panel heard that de Grood had been under-reporting when he was under stress and had difficulty establishing a rapport with his treatment teams.

The board also rejected a request that de Grood be given a conditional discharge, which would have allowed him to reside with his family in Calgary. He is currently living in a highly structured group home with 24-hour supervision.

"The team does intend to eventually move Mr. de Grood to a group home with less than 24-hour supervision, if and when Mr. de Grood is deemed ready to do so," Hawranik said.

"More progress is required to observe Mr. de Grood's progress in this respect."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2023.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press